Encryptors Could Boost IT Services

New WAN security could equip outsourcers with the right IT tools

June 12, 2009

3 Min Read
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WAN security vendor SafeNet Inc. (Nasdaq: SFNT) won a multi-million-dollar contract this week, while (NYSE/Toronto: NT) showed a prototype encryptor embedded in a Sonet switch. (see Nortel Encrypts Transmission and SafeNet Wins DOD Contract.)

Both events highlight a growing focus on how carriers guarantee security on their facilities, as end users look harder at managed storage, security, and hosting services.

In SafeNet's case, the vendor announced yesterday a $150 million contract to furnish the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) with Sonet encryptors. (See SafeNet Soars, Hifn Sags.) SafeNet is so far the leading commercial provider of encryption appliances capable of operating at OC-192 rates of up to 10-Gbit/s.

It may not be alone for long. Nortel picked the iGrid conference in San Diego this week to demonstrate a prototype 10-Gbit/s encryptor loaded into its OME 6500 optical networking switch. Nortel says the demo shows that when integrated with a switch, fast encryptors can handle multiple channels at different speeds up to 10-Gbit/s.

Nortel's demo involved the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption of 12 distinct "streams" of images from Chicago, Ottawa, and Amsterdam -- all running at about 700-Mbit/s -- combined into one 10-Gbit/s OC-192 link in Chicago, and then sent to a display in San Diego.

The vendor gives no timeframe for turning its science project into a product. Clearly, though, it's got an agenda. Rod Wilson, director of advanced technology research at Nortel, claims that compared with standalone solutions like SafeNet's, a switch-integrated encryptor can save operational costs in cabling, power, and data center real estate.

SafeNet isn't fazed. "We don't have our encryptor embedded in a switch, because we need equipment to be compatible with Nortel, Cisco, and others," says Chris Fedde, SVP of enterprise security division. And if Nortel's boasting, it should get its story straight on encryption, he says. AES alone isn't enough to qualify equipment for top-secret government networks.

As evidenced in new offerings from (Nasdaq: MCIP) and (Nasdaq: SVVS), the trend toward managed services has been growing for months. (See Managed Security Services Pipe Up, Switch & Data Scales Up, Savvis Sells Virtual Switch Savvy, and MCI Sells Storage .)

The increased focus on WAN security accompanying the trend isn't restricted to encryptors. There are other approaches on offer, such as the content security appliance from StreamShield Networks Ltd., recently adopted by a U.K. ISP. (See StreamShield Pressed Into Service.)

For services like storage area networks and disaster recovery, which require optimal throughput, there may be a benefit in pushing security all the way out to the Sonet rings. In an announcement earlier in September 2005, SafeNet claimed that tests at the Rochester Institute of Technology showed that Sonet encryptors operating at Layer 2 (the data link layer) added 5 percent or less latency, while routers with encryption at Layer 3 (the network layer) added as much as 60 percent latency.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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